There will be lot more cooking at the 15th annual Great Ogeechee Seafood Festival this weekend than fried shrimp and gumbo. Thanks to the Boy Scout Troop 400 of Richmond Hill, visitors to J.F. Gregory Park this Friday through Sunday will also have the chance to get a taste of something sweet with their seafood.
Each year, the group preps, cooks and serves thousands of plates of peach cobbler a la mode during the festival as a fundraising effort for Boy Scout operations.
“We’ve won People’s Choice just about every year we’ve done this,” Scott Schell, Troop 400 Scoutmaster, said. “And we’ve been working the seafood festival about 22 years.”
More than 50 boys ages 11 to 18 are responsible for planning their part in the event, from stocking and peeling the peaches to setting up the booth the night before. And the cobbler is consistently a popular item at the festival — and Schell has the trophies to prove it.
“Dessert is all we do — the boys got about 20 Dutch ovens, and during the festival it’s not unusual to have all the pots going at once,” he said. “You’ve really got to time it well so you don’t have a lot of waste and so the line doesn’t get too long.
“They’ll easily go through about 150 Dutch ovens, which is about 400 hundred servings.”
But it’s not all supply and demand for the troop. According to Schell, the boys will play another important role in addition to feeding thousands of hungry festival goers — cleanup.
Each day, the Boy Scouts will rotate in two- to four-hour shifts as they sweep, pick up trash and help keep J.F. Gregory Park just as beautiful as it was when they arrived.
Picking up after 20,000 people or so is no easy job, but Schell said he couldn’t be more proud of the initiative his troop has taken to be of service.
“They’re only required to work their two-hour shift, but we have some boys that will come out in the morning and stay all day,” he said. “They’re just that excited.”
Over the course of the three-day festival, the boys will alternate picking up trash before they shower and get to work making cobbler. As the only fundraiser of the year, each Scout receives a portion of the proceeds corresponding to how much he worked during the festival — money that will later fund camp participation and Eagle Scout projects.
The remaining portion of the proceeds is funneled back into the Troop for general operations.
And while fundraising is an important part of the seafood festival, learning how to give back is what Schell said he hopes the boys will really take away from their experience.
“We have boys that have already gone away to college, but still come back to help out with the festival,” he said. “We’ve got a great network of boys, even when they leave here and move on. It’s a good unity for these guys and it’s great for the younger ones to see that.”
Troop 400 plans to get a jumpstart on the festival when they set up Thursday night. They’ll dish out peach cobbler, ice cream and fresh coffee for guests each day until the event ends Sunday night.